Friday, July 30, 2010

Resident Evil

Some films can evoke a specific time and place. Sometimes it's intentional, since a good period piece can bring a bygone era to life, or a genre tribute can revive a style long dormant. Sometimes, it's unintentional, and the period evoked likely wasn't the period intended. Resident Evil reminds me of the '80s, but in this case, I don't think that was the intent.

Why is that? Well, in some ways, it's the manner in which it's shot. There's lots of spooky smoke machines and a muddy palette that evokes the '80s for me. It also starts with a slow zoom on a frame much smaller than the screen, which I haven't seen since then. In other ways, it's just a campy zombie picture, and campy action is something I associate with the '80s for some reason. This is a film that Cannon Films would gladly attach their name to. It's got marines, things to shoot, action beat, and typical scary movie slow zooms followed by quick cuts, because that's shocking.

The story itself doesn't quite make logical sense. There's a big scary lab run by a computer which manifests itself as a little girl because that's a little creepier. Some virus gets out and the computer decides to kill everyone in a series of elaborate ways. A team sets out to investigate and is killed in ways which suggest the computer is an asshole - there's a hallway with lasers where they are toyed with for no obvious benefit - and then zombies show up. The core team played by Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, Matt Addison, James Purefoy, and Martin Crewes investigate, have mysterious secrets and mostly get killed by zombies. There's even some bad CGI to connect it with the Playstation original.

One of the main faults is that nothing happens for any logical reason. The entire existence of the McGuffin of the day - the T-Virus, which zombificates people - doesn't make much sense, the computer's elaborate killing of people doesn't seem especially logical itself, the entire go down and shut the computer off plan seems unnecessarily risky, though not as risky as giving it the power to kill everyone. Character motivations are never adequately explained and sometimes contradictory, and in some cases the reasons for the characters even being there doesn't make sense.

So it's dumb, it's kind of low budget and the story doesn't make any sense. I was sort of entertained in spite of it though, and that's because the premise actually sort of works. Why do I say that? Well, you've got a confined space, lots of baddies, and a bunch of plucky individuals who need to escape that confined space. Turns out that setup is remarkably difficult to mess up. I also liked the industrial metal score, it was mostly strong and even kind of catchy.

It's not good, it doesn't make sense, and it's pretty stupid overall. Yet, it makes itself enjoyable in spite of many, many obvious flaws. The real reason why? Because it reminds me of the '80s. It reminds me of those wasted afternoons watching bad '80s films on channels like TBS. I can understand hating it, because it's stupid, but it's bad in the right way.

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